The number of students who could attend college debt-free through the Nellie Bly scholarship in just one year: 25,000.
The size of a purse won by a single jockey last year at Parx in Bensalem: $5 million.
Pennsylvania has invested $3 billion in its horse racing industry since it asked for help in 2004.
And now, it’s time for Pennsylvania to invest in its future workforce.
An investment in the same group of Pennsylvanians that racing has identified as its ideal future supporters: college-aged individuals with a discretionary income.
With declining public interest, in 2015 horse racing needed to broaden its appeal to a younger demographic, so the administration insisted on dedicating marketing funds from the Race Horse Development Fund – under the control of the industry – to promote the sport.
This dedicated marketing fund is not going away, there’s another $2.4 million coming through the proposed budget to continue bolstering interest in the sport.
The nearly $9.5 million invested in marketing to date is beginning to make a difference. Today the industry generates $20 million for race purses through its racing programs, and with continued marketing, could earn more.
Governor Tom Wolf’s investment in education takes nothing from the $20 million the industry generates on its own.
The proposal redirects a portion of slot machine revenue. This revenue is not produced by horse racing and does not come from tax payers’ pockets.
But rather, it belongs to the state and it is intended to benefit tax payers.
The private horse racing business erred by assuming it was theirs in perpetuity.
Shifting slot-revenue to the scholarship program will help financially eligible students in state system universities afford the education needed to become self-sufficient contributors to the economy.
But Pennsylvania racing is not left cold in the proposal. It will still receive much more help than many other private industries.
All race horse medication testing costs, which ensure integrity in the sport, will continue to be paid by the state, provided House Bill 1983, a measure to remove a sunset provision, passes.
All health and pension benefits through the state will continue for horsemen and backside track employees.
All marketing funds continue.
Horse racing will also continue to enjoy the equine sales tax exemption; Clean and Green preferential tax treatment; investments we make at the University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine to address a veterinarian shortage; and, support for the Standardbred Sale at the Farm Show Complex.
When the industry asked in 2004 for financial help, Pennsylvania bet on horse racing’s future with Act 71 and again, in 2015, with Act 114.
Now, just as the commonwealth responded to the needs of horse racing, we need to respond to the needs of our future workforce.
Russell Redding is secretary of the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture which oversees the horse racing industry and is also chairman of the Horse Racing Commission.